In 2008 Cardoso was unable to show federal authorities who had turned up at a family picnic that he was a citizen. To become a citizen, before he was busted, he would have had to go to Mexico and apply for a U.S. visa. Now, with deportation well in the works, it's too late to do that.
"With that order of deportation that'll come to me," he said, "it'll give me a ten-year bar. On top of that, the only one that can petition for me is my brother, and it will take 15 years, so five years more than the bar."
Over the last five years, Cardoso has been taking classes at Capital Community College, paying his tuition without student loans. This is his last semester. If he wasn't being deported he'd be heading to a university, to become a civil engineer or a math teacher.
He says there's no law on the books that can help him, because his parents smuggled him in and he did nothing to legalize his status, but he's hoping elected officials will see his story and get him a break.
"I deserve a chance to prove I'm an American," he said. "I'm sure if they see who I am, they'll know. The laws don't seem fair. They don't seem reasonable to me because I'm doing nothing wrong here. I'm being a model citizen as much as I can."